Changing tastes, times or
circumstances all can prompt people who once loved their tattoos to now want
New technologies make tattoo removal easier than ever and have made more people aware that removing them is
possible, said Roy Geronemus, M.D., a former president of the American Society for
Dermatologic Surgery. His New York City practice specializes in laser and other
medical and cosmetic surgery treatments. Geronemus has been involved with the
development of multiple new laser systems and treatment techniques, including
those for tattoo removal.
He and other ASDS member dermatologists
have seen an increase in the number of people who want to erase their body art.
ASDS physicians completed 96,000 tattoo removals in 2013, according to the recent
ASDS Survey on Dermatologic Procedures. The number of treatments increased 52
percent over 2012.
“There are a larger number of
people with tattoos,” said Geronemus. “Historically, a certain percentage of
people eventually regret their tattoos and want them off. So we’re not
surprised to see the number of removals go up.”
A 2012 Harris Poll found 21 percent of
Americans have at least one tattoo, up from 16 percent in 2003. That same poll
found that 14 percent of people now regret that decision.
“There’s also a general
awareness that we’re much better at tattoo removal than ever before,” Geronemus
said. “People recognize removal as a more viable option.”
Treatments vary from patient
to patient because each tattoo is different. Generally, lasers use a
high-intensity light to smash a tattoo’s ink particles. Tattoo colors and skin
color both affect the process, as does tattoo size.
Technology introduced last
year has altered the process of tattoo removal – simplifying and improving many
aspects of the procedure, Geronemus said. “It’s the first time since 1991 that
we’ve seen this drastic of a change,” he said. “It certainly accounts for
renewed interest from the public.”
Geronemus said the new picosecond
laser delivers a pulse of light 100 times faster than previous lasers,
shattering ink into minute particles that result in better elimination of the
tattoo ink, less skin damage and fewer treatments.
It more effectively clears
blue and green inks, previously two of the hardest colors to erase. It also is
better at treating skin of color, increasing interest in the process, according
Reasons vary widely as to why
patients seek removal of their tattoos, he said.
One woman who had a leg
tattoo wanted to wear dresses without displaying body art, for example. “Perhaps
there’s been a change in professional status. A man with a tattoo in a visible
location wants it removed because it attracts the wrong kind of attention on
the job,” Geronemus said. “Sometimes the reason is very personal. A patient may
have a tattoo that includes the name of someone who is no longer in his life.”
In his practice, young
mothers represent the largest demographic seeking tattoo removals. “They want a
different image for their children,” he said.
Whatever the reason,
Geronemus advises prospective patients to seek out an expert ASDS member
dermatologist. Others who say they specialize in tattoo removal may not be
trained properly or might not have the appropriate level of licensure, he said.
“They’re often using the
wrong laser for a specific color or using the wrong parameters. And they have
no access to local anesthesia, so the patient is very uncomfortable,” he said.
“I see people suffering because they’re in the wrong hands.”
Removal done improperly can
leave a scar more visible than the tattoo, he said. “We now have so many options
– and technology is continually evolving. People don’t have to live with
regret. In the right hands, removal is safer and more effective than ever.”